Hands-on with the Kia EV9

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Three versions of the new Kia flagship will include rear and all-wheel-drive, and two battery sizes.

Kia’s all-electric EV9 SUV got its world debut at this week’s New York Auto Show ahead of order books opening in the second half of 2023 – and we climbed in to see how the new model shapes up.

The EV9 – expected to go on sale later this year with prices starting from around $85,000 – will push Kia even further upmarket and is set to challenge everything from Volvo’s EX90 to the all-electric Range Rover, considerably undercutting both. But can it match up to the luxury of established premium rivals? On first examination, the answer’s yes – on quality, comfort and tech.

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Pulling hold of the flush-fitting, retractable door handles we were struck by the weight of the doors themselves. They open to a cabin using calming colours and more inviting materials than we’ve seen from Kia before – not surprising given the price point – but visually at least a match for any other premium SUV.

There are a few surprisingly hard plastics, notably around the window switches on the doors, but there’s an impressive feeling of airiness with a low scuttle and deep windows for a good view out. A small steering wheel sits in front of familiar Kia/Hyundai twin information and infotainment screens – not surprising given the EV9’s sharing its E-GMP platform architecture with the group’s other recent EVs.

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There are plenty of sustainable materials used inside, while the seats are comfortable with plenty of storage in the door cubbies and between the front seats. Smart, subtle interior LED lighting gives a very premium feel, too.

While rows one and two – with good access through wide-opening doors for both – provide plenty of head and kneeroom, the third row is considerably tighter unless those in the middle row compromise their leg space.

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The payoff is a very usable 572 litres of space with all seats up. Fold the back row into the floor using the pull straps velcroed to the seat backs and fold the middle row, too, and that space rises to 2319 litres.

With a very premium tech list that includes a digital key stored on your smartphone and over-the-air updates, the EV9 certainly feels very upmarket. And with a queue of buyers already willing to shell over $100,000 for an EV6 GT, spending such a considerable sum on a car with a Kia badge on the nose doesn’t seem like the problem it might have been just a couple of years ago.

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Further specs have been revealed for Kia’s EV9 electric SUV, following the flagship model’s reveal a couple of weeks ago. Details regarding battery capacity, range, power and charging technology have now been revealed.

At more than five metres long and almost two metres wide, the range-topping seven-seat EV will sit above the existing EV6 and forthcoming EV5 (above) in Kia model range. The most expensive versions of the EV9 will feature a large 99.8kWh battery, and its maker is targeting a maximum range of 540km on a charge for the very longest range version.

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The EV9 will be offered with rear and dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrains, all featuring the brand’s innovative 800-volt electric architecture built into the E-GMP platform shared with the EV6. That tech should ensure a 10-80 per cent charge in less than 20 minutes.

The most expensive versions of the EV9 will feature a large 99.8kWh battery, and its maker is targeting a maximum range of 541km on a charge for the very longest range version.

The base RWD car uses a 160kW/350Nm electric motor and will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 9.4 seconds, and is equipped with a 76.1kWh battery. The AWD variant, meanwhile, almost doubles the power output to 280kW/600Nm, slashing the benchmark sprint to six seconds flat. An optional boost function – available as an over-the-air (OTA) update – increases torque and reduces the 0-100km/h time to 5.3 secs. This version of the car comes with the 99.8kWh battery, while a third option exists in the form of a Long Range RWD car that combines a 150kW motor with the larger pack – this is the variant Kia claims a range of 541km for.

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OTA updates are expected to feature prominently on the EV9; owners can visit the Kia Connect Store to purchase digital features and services on demand. The firm says this gives them the flexibility to choose features they want to “continuously upgrade the capability of the EV9”.

While exact Australian specifications are yet to be determined, the model line-up could mirror that of the EV6 hatchback. That should mean an entry-level RWD model, plus GT-Line RWD and AWD cars. Kia has also confirmed a high-performance EV9 GT model will arrive that will likely have over 430kW of power.

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Equipment could include a trio of screens and at least 19-inch wheels, plus a leather-free cabin using “bio-based materials”, such as corn, sugar cane, and natural oils. Kia also says the EV9 will introduce “conditional” Level 3 autonomous tech.

Prices in Australia will be announced closer to the EV9’s on-sale date, but are expected to start at around $85,000. Kia EV9 deliveries are expected to commence in the third quarter 2023.

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